Threepeat!

    Photo by Alwin Szeto
    Photo by Alwin Szeto

    Behind Jolene Guiliana’s play, UCSD is crowned WWPA Champion for the third consecutive time.

    Photo by Alwin Szeto
    Photo by Alwin Szeto

    After losing the final game of its regular season, the UCSD women’s water polo team returned to its winning ways as the Tritons went on to secure the Western Water Polo Association Championship title, defeating Cal State Monterey Bay on Saturday and Cal State East Bay on Sunday at SPIRE Institute. This is the third consecutive WWPA title for UCSD, as well as the fourth total in the past five years.

    The No. 1 seed UCSD squad took down the No. 3 seed Cal State Monterey Bay 12–8 in the semifinals and went on to defeat the No. 4 seed Cal State East Bay 10–8 in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

    On Saturday, the Tritons started out the match against the Otters in a confident manner, ending the first quarter with a score of 3–0 in their favor. Attackers senior Jolene Guiliana, sophomore Lani Tittle and sophomore center Lauren Boyer all contributed to the scoreboard in the first quarter while junior goalie Courtney Miller shut out the Otters. The Tritons were able to carry this confidence forward as they ended the first half with a score of 4–3.

    In the second half of the game, the Tritons were able to pull away in the third quarter when Boyer completed her hat trick. Although the Otters attempted to mount a comeback in the game, the Tritons successfully maintained their lead, with another completed hat trick by Guiliana. The Tritons finished with a comfortable lead and kept Cal State Monterey Bay in check in the final two minutes of the game that ended at 12–8 in favor of the Tritons.

    While their stellar offense led them to victory, the Tritons were also able to put on a defensive show as Miller was able to make six saves in the course of the game. Boyer went on to draw four of the Triton’s five penalty shots, setting a new personal career high. Guiliana also contributed a career-high seven steals while also dishing out three assists to top that.

    “The key to today was our inside game,” head coach Brad Kreutzkamp told the UCSD Athletics Department. “We were able to get the ball in at two meters, draw ejections, get penalty shots and convert them. Boyer and Guiliana were outstanding today. … They both answered the call when we needed it.”

    On Sunday, the Tritons went head-to-head with last year’s rivals, the East Bay Pioneers, for not only the WWPA Championship title but also an automatic conference bid into the NCAA Women’s Water Polo Championship.

    Boyer started off the match with an early point, but the Pioneers retaliated with two back-to-back points, giving them an early 2–1 lead. This, however, would be the only lead for the Pioneers in the game.

    Junior attacker Laurel Kistler evened the score shortly after, and she was followed by a goal from Guiliana to end the first quarter, putting the blue and gold back on top at 3–2. Guiliana started off the second quarter in similar fashion and scored her second goal of the game in the early minutes of the quarter. Tittle followed her teammate’s lead and scored her own first goal of the game. The Pioneers finally responded with a goal toward the end of the first half from junior two-meter player Taylor Cross when she managed to complete a hat trick in the first half. Despite Cross’ feat, the Tritons still led with 5–3 at the end of the half.

    “I think the turning point came when we got a couple of quick, solid counterattack goals to start the third quarter,” Guiliana told the UCSD Athletics Department. “Courtney [Miller] threw some great passes, and we were able to convert.”

    The Tritons broke away in the third quarter as they outscored the Pioneers in this single quarter by 5–1. Guiliana made the first goal of the third quarter which also led her to complete her hat trick at this point. Junior attacker Julia Kirkland also stepped up and was able to score her first goal not long after that. The third quarter was a shining moment for Tittle: She scored two goals to complete her hat trick before the Pioneers were able to squeeze in their only point of the quarter. Not to be outdone, Tittle scored again in the final minute of the third quarter — her third goal of the quarter and fourth of the match — giving the Tritons a comfortable 10–4 advantage.

    The Tritons’ offense was kept in check in the fourth quarter as they ended up going scoreless while Cal State East Bay managed to score four goals. The Pioneers were getting ready to rally back into the game, but the Tritons stayed steadfast and were able to hold out and win the game with a final score of 10–8. Miller ended the day with seven saves for UCSD.

    This win marked the third consecutive WWPA title for UCSD, making it the second-longest streak in WWPA history, behind the five-straight crowns held by Loyola Marymount University from the 2001–05 seasons.

    Guiliana, Boyer, and Miller were all awarded first-team rank selections, while Tittle was elected to the second team. On top of that induction, Miller was also recently announced as the WWPA Player of the Year. Guiliana was also further honored by being named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament and WWPA Player of the Week.

    “Winning conference is a good accomplishment because we get the chance to extend our season and play into the NCAA tournament,” Miller said. “This year definitely felt different than two years ago because the teams in our conference have changed significantly, and back then, we were viewed as underdogs. I think this season was a lot more successful than we showed on paper. We’ve had a lot of close games against good opponents. … I think we are setting ourselves up to be an even better team in the future.”

    The Tritons will next host an NCAA Championship play-in game against Whittier College on Saturday, May 2. If successful, they will then look for success in the upcoming NCAA championship at Stanford University that will take place on Friday, May 8, until Sunday, May 10.

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